(Wood 1935) A Night at the Opera
(Leonviola 1963) Thor and the Amazon Women [Le gladiatrici]
(Robbins 1978) Corvette Summer
(Hartley 2014) Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films
(Gordon 1977) Empire of the Ants
(Arnold 1965) Perry Mason: Ep.227 ― The Case of the Thermal Thief
(Silverman 1995) The Simpsons: Ep.118 ― Homie the Clown
(Archer 1995) The Simpsons: Ep.119 ― Bart vs. Australia
(Kalmanowicz 1980) The Children
(Kirkland 1995) The Simpsons: Ep.120 ― Homer vs. Patty and Selma
(Dietter 1995) The Simpsons: Ep.121 ― A Star is Burns
(Bradley 1963) The Madmen of Mandoras
(Hibbs 1965) Perry Mason: Ep.228 ― The Case of the Golden Venom
(Ball 2015) Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials
(Wood 1935) A Night at the Opera
27182. (Cristóbal de Morales) Officium defunctorum Missa pro Defunctis
27183. (Alonso Lobo) Motet: Versa es in luctum
27184. (Ed Sheeran) You Need Me EP
27185. (A$AP Rocky) Live Love A$AP
27186. (Moody Blues) The Magnificent Moodies
27187. Eight Lamas from Drepung: Tibetan Sacred Temple Music
27188. (Miranda Lambert) Kerosene
27189. (Zac Brown Band) Greatest Hits So Far…
27190. (Adele) 21
27191. (Daniel Merriweather) Water and Flame [single] [f. Adele]
27192. (Little Big Town) Little Big Town
27193. (Neidhart von Reuenthal) Sumer deiner suzzen wunne
26545. (Frs. Limbourg & Jean Colombe) Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry [1412–1489]
26546. (Patrick Vinton Kirch) The Lapita Peoples: Ancestors of the Oceanic World
26547. (Miljana Radivojević, et al) On the Origins of Extractive Metallurgy: New Evidence
. . . . . . from Europe [article]
26548. (Jean-Paul Gagnon) Non-human Democracy: Our Political Vocabulary Has No Room
. . . . . . for Animals [article]
26549. (Richard Bellamy) The Paradox of the Democratic Prince: Machiavelli and the Neo–
. . . . . . Machiavellians on Ideal Theory, Realism, and Democratic Leadership [article draft]
26550. (Brian M. Fagan) The Journey from Eden
26551. (Federico Lugli) La mummia nelle farmacopee medioevali [article]
26552. (Julian Thomas) House Societies and Founding Ancestors in Early Neolithic Britain
. . . . . . [article]
Usually, I don’t list a book as “read” unless I read the whole thing, but this is a special case. The Très Riches Heures is a medieval breviary, famous for its artistic value as an illuminated manuscript. I doubt that many people have ever read the entire text, which is merely a collection of prayers, making tedious reading. Such books were made for laymen who wished to bring some elements of monastic practice into their daily lives. They provided a calendric schedule for reading passages from the Gospels, the Psalms, and litanies, and also helped one keep track of the many feast and saints’ days. Most were in Latin, but some were in local vernaculars. Thousands of these manuscripts survive, but a handful that were produced for wealthy nobles are spectacularly illuminated. The one produced for the Duc de Berry is considered to be one of the principal masterpieces of medieval art. It is sometimes said to be the most valuable book in the world.
The copy I have is a facsimile of the original manuscript, and even for someone familiar with medieval French, the script used in the middle ages is very difficult for a modern reader to get used to [see the sample in the image below]. I could not find a translation of the text, or a version in modern French, so I contented myself with reading a random assortment of pages to get the feel of it. It is, after all, as visual art that the book has its fame. The book was begun in 1412, commissioned by Jean duc de Berry from three Limbourg brothers, Dutch artists who worked in the court of Burgundy. All three died of the plague (along with their patron) four years later, with the work uncompleted. More illustrations were added over the next few decades, by an unknown artist and by Jean Colombe (c.1430–1493). It remained obscure until the 19th century, when it left private hands and became recognized as a masterpiece.
Quite apart from being extraordinarily beautiful, the book is a treasure-trove of visual imformation about medieval society, because it includes depictions of peasant life (idealized) as well as the activities of the aristocracy. For this reason, some of the images — notably those from the calendrical portion [the first one shown here] — have been often reproduced as covers and illustrations for books on medieval history.
But I strongly recommend that you download the images from Wikipedia Commons. This is a slow process, as you must individually download 425 files if you want to have the whole book. Most people will be content with the full-page illustrations and some of the more ornate text pages. There are dozens of unfamiliar, seldom reproduced images that will dazzle you.
It’s been an average year of reading. 160 books and about 500 academic papers, articles, short stories and other short items. History and anthropology dominated the book reading, as usual, with an emphasis on Australia, the Pacific, the Canadian North and West, and the ideas of 19th century Canadian democratic reformers. I became particularly fascinated by the 19th century convict colonies of Australia and the French Pacific possessions, and I amplified previous readings (such as Robert Hughes venerable The Fatal Shore, and the eye-opening but little known Australia’s Birthstain, by Babette Smith). Thomas Keneally, giving Hughes a run for his money in A Commonwealth of Thieves, covers the general subject with extraordinarily vivid prose, and Siân Rees makes a closer case study in The Floating Brothel — The Extraordinary True Story of an Eighteenth– century Ship and Its Cargo of Female Convicts.
(Lambert 2011) Mega Python vs. Gatoroid
(Groening & Mirkin 1993) The Simpsons: Ep.88 ― Bart’s Inner Child
(Moore 1964) Perry Mason: Ep.210 ― The Case of the Tandem Target
(Marks 1964) Perry Mason: Ep.211 ― The Case of the Ugly Duckling
(Robson 1946) Bedlam
(Groening & Mirkin 1993) The Simpsons: Ep.89 ― Boy-Scoutz ‘n the Hood
(Donner 1964) Perry Mason: Ep.212 ― The Case of the Missing Button
(Dante 2010) Trailers from Hell: Joe Dante on The Invisible Ghost
(Lewis 1941) The Invisible Ghost
(Howard 1941) Six-Gun Gold
(Groening & Mirkin 1993) The Simpsons: Ep.90 ― The Last Temptation of Homer
(Keaton & St. Clair 1922) The Blacksmith
(Newbrook 1973) The Asphyx
27149. (Ferde Grofé) Hudson River Suite
27150. (How To Dress Well) Love Remains
27151. (Leoninus [Leo Léonin]) Messe du Jour de Noël
27152. (Nathan Chan & ThatViolaKid) “Hello” [Adele cover]
27153. (Young Thug) Barter 6
27154. (tUnE-yArDs) Nikki Nack
27155. (Du Mingxin) Symphony “The Great Wall”
27156. (Brandon Flowers) The Desired Effect
27157. (Girls At Our Best!) Pleasure
27158. (Charles Mingus) Charles Mingus Group with Konitz & Cello
26510. (Jonathan Safran Foer) Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
26511. (Philipp W. Stockhammer, et al) Rewriting the Central European Early Bronze Age
. . . . . Chronology: Evidence from Large-Scale Radiocarbon Dating [article]
26512. (Robert M. Kerr) Coït sacré ou deuil rituel? Quelques remarques préliminaires sur
. . . . . . l’apthéose chez les Phéniciens [article]
26513. (Patricia E. Roy & John Herd Thompson) British Columbia — Land of Promises
. . . . . . [Oxford Illustrated History of Canada, vol. 5]
26514. (Margarita Diaz-Andreu; Carlos Garcia Benito & Tomasso Mattioli) Arqueoacústica,
. . . . . . un nuevo enfoque en los estudios arqueológicos de la península Iberica [article]
26515. (Dimitrij Mlekuž) Archaeological Culture, Please Meet Yoghurt Culture: Towards a
. . . . . . Relational Archaeology of Milk [article]
26516. (Glynis Ridley) The Discovery of Jeanne Baret — A Story of Science, the High Seas,
. . . . . . and the First Woman to Circumnavigate the Globe
26517. (Mark Leyner) The Tetherballs of Bougainville
I fell in love with African pop music long ago, in Nigeria, during the heady days of Victor Owaifo, Dele Abiodun and King Sunny Adé (whose hand I got to shake in Toronto, many years later). I’ve tried to follow it ever since, but there is simply too much to keep track of. Africa produces wave after wave of new music, the hotspots shifting back and forth from region to region. Kinshasa is a hotspot, lately.
Mbongwana Star is taking African pop in a new direction with the release this year of From Kinshasa. Mbongwana actually means “change” in Lingala, and the change is apparent. Musicians in the Congo* have long been in a groove whose outside influences were primarily reggae, soukous and classic rhyhm and blues. From Kinshasa is quite different. It has a spacy, almost psychedelic sensibility that pulls influences from punk and electronica, and has an ambience something like the science fiction-motown experiments that George Clinton made back in the 1970s. This amount of innovation is all the more remarkable because the founders of the band, Yakala “Coco” Ngambali and Nsituvuidi “Theo” Nzonza, are men in their sixties, confined to wheelchairs, and veterans of the brief celebrity of Staff Benda Bilili.
Staff Benda Bilili was a freak success a few years ago. It emerged from the slums of Kinshasa, and was comprised of four elderly men who had been confined to improvised tricycle-wheelchairs by childhood polio, accompanied by a teenager who played an electric lute that he had hand-made from scraps. They appeared peripherally in a French documentary on Kinshasa’s slum life and music scene called Jupiter’s Dance in 2006. Four years later, the same producers and directors made a slicker documentary focused on them, which was a hit at Cannes and made them overnight stars in Europe. What followed was the classic tragicomedy of instant success. They toured the world, giving hundreds of concerts, released two fine albums, Très très fort (2009) and Bouger le Monde! (2012). They made a fortune on paper, but the money evaporated in the unfamiliar maze of contracts, hangers-on, per diems, and touring costs that plague the global music industry, and which they were unequiped to navigate. At one point, they found themselves penniless in Trinidad, with no gig, no place to stay, and no airfare home. Finally, the band broke up with the usual confusion and rancour. But the two albums they issued are fine examples of the Kinshasa sound, lively and entertaining.
Ngambali and Nzonza did not give up, however. They returned to Kinshasa and dug up some young musicians back in their old neighbourhood. They found percussionist Randy Makana Kambalaya in a shelter for the disabled, a young street urchin known only as “Sage” who played vibes, and Jean-Claude Kamina Mulodi, a brilliant guitarist. Mbongwana Star was born, and they were open to new musical influences, for the Staff Benda Bilili veterans had been exposed to a lot of stuff in their world tour, and absorbed it with interest. Connecting with an experienced Irish producer, Doctor L, familiar with the African scene but also savvy in the music business, put them back on track. While the two earlier albums are good stuff, worth repeated listening, From Kinshasa is something entirely new, and I’ve been playing it over and over again with pleasure.
— * the former Belgian Colony, previously called Zaire, not the Congo Republic, a former French colony next door to it.
I’m a curmudgeony cynic, most of the time, so it’s not often I get to proclaim that I’m proud of my country. But the behaviour of Canadians in the last week has filled me with pride. Last month, I posted a letter I sent to my Member of Parliament, asking that the commitment to admitting Syrian refugees to Canada be expanded to greater numbers. My sentiments seem to be shared by most Canadians, but that is not the case elsewhere.
In the United States, the majority of politicians (all Republicans, of course, but many Democrats, too) have decided to be pals with ISIS, collaborating in their attrocities by making it difficult for their victims to find refuge. The Marching Morons have triumphed, and there have been numerous acts of terrorism against innocent people, encouraged and abetted by Fox Pravda and the usual Conservative scumbags.
My friend Filip Marek, in Prague, sends me distressing news items. Miloš Zeman, the president of the Czech Republic, has been spouting vile racist and xenophobic garbage of the most disgusting sort — and soaring to popularity for it. He might as well be on the ISIS payroll. The news from many other European countries is just as depressing, if the newspapers I consult are giving an accurate picture. There are decent people in all countries who are stepping forward to help the Syrians, but the depth of nastiness demonstrated by a very large number of people is extremely depressing and disturbing.
But Canadians have responded to the refugee crisis in a way that gladdens my heart. Although there was some initial negative response when the new government announced its plan to quickly bring in 25,000 refugees, this melted away as public sentiment shifted to sympathy for the refugees. “Let’s live up to who we are as Canadians by tackling this challenge, seizing this opportunity,” said David Johnston, Governor General (in Canada, the formal Head of State) at the Forum on Welcoming Syrian Refugees to Canada, which was set-up to map out logistics. Groups of every religious creed have organized clothing drives, housing funds, and banded together to sponsor refugees. The very small number of anti-refugee incidents were denounced by the vast majority of Canadians, and the hate-filled cranks have crawled back under the floorboards and into the sewers. There are no politicians in any party voicing hostility to the Syrians. The first plane-load of refugees arrived in Toronto to be greeted personally by the Prime Minister (who was cheerfully handing out sweaters from a carton). Sure, this was a photo-op for the newly elected PM, but the footage left no doubt that the sentiment was sincere, and his sympathy real. School children and church groups from across the country sent welcoming greetings and gifts.
In my blog post, I mentioned that among the most active in welcoming Syrian refugees have been the community of Vietnamese Canadians. They know all too well the hardships that refugees undergo. This video appeared on the website of the Manchester Guardian:
Yes, it’s permissible for as grumpy a cynic as myself — now and then — to be openly proud of his country.